I often see a young man at & around our local library. Some days, he's out front chatting w/ someone. Some days, he's inside at the computers or conversing at one of the study tables. Still other days, I'll see him walking w/in a 1/2 mile down the major roadway near the library.
He looks to be in his mid-20s & always has two bags in his possession...one slung over his shoulder & the other in hand.
Is he a student doing copius amounts of research? Is he one of the many unemployed citizens using the library's resources to find a job? Is he a drug dealer, using the library as his exchange point?
What's his story?
When I first started my job as a nursing home/rehab center receptionist, I was particularly drawn to a sweet, wheelchair-bound resident. She was mostly blind & going deaf. She drove some of the staff crazy w/ her constant calls for "Help!" as she maneuvered herself down the hallways.
In colder months, she'd sit by the fireplace in the lobby. In warmer weather, she'd sit out front, soaking up the sun's rays. I'd make sure she sat near my window in case she needed assistance.
Each Saturday, her niece & dearest friend, would visit for a couple hours. One morning, she arrived as usual, but was heading back out only a few minutes later. As she stopped by my desk, she told me her aunt had passed that morning...calls had not even been made yet. Through tears, I offered my sympathy & said she would be greatly missed.
Later that week, I came across her obituary, which included a photo of her from about 20 years earlier. There was big difference between the woman I knew & the woman in the photo.
I started to wonder about her life. I knew she had been married, but had no children. The only person I ever saw visit was her niece. And I knew she really liked cookies...we had a bag in the office just for her.
What was her story?
How about the other people we encounter daily...bank tellers, grocery store clerks, the man w/ the sign at the side of the road, the nurses & doctors who care for us, the people who always sit near us in church?
What are their stories?
Then I wonder, do I really NEED to know? Would it make a difference in how I treat them? In some ways, yes. I may be more guarded in what I might say. (If I know someone is suffering from infertility or miscarriages, I probably won't talk about a friend pregnant w/ her 5th child.)
In another way, I really don't need to know. All I need to be aware of is that each person is a child of God, created in His likeness, as one of my brothers & sisters in Christ.
So, I smile at them. I say "Hello!" & ask how they're doing (really listening to their reply). I follow up previous conversations & ask how things are progressing. As I walk away, I tell them to have a good day...and MEAN it!
The Word Among Us reflection for the readings on Sat., May 18, 2013, focused on John 21:21..."When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, 'Lord, what about him?'"
The reflection begins..."We too are often temped to wonder about others." It goes on as a conversation between us & Jesus, asking several "What about...?" situations, ending w/ the following...
The only thing I can add to Jesus' reply is to follow The Golden Rule...treating others the way I want to be treated. No matter what someone's story is, they still deserve to be treated kindly. It's not always easy, I know, but if we put our trust in Jesus, He WILL show us the way.